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August 8, 2020

PVUSD to begin 2020/21 school year online

WATSONVILLE—Pajaro Valley Unified School District will begin the year with distance learning for all students when classes begin on Aug. 17, a measure meant to keep students and staff safe from Covid-19 as the virus continues to spread throughout the state.

PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said that the move will come with training and resources for teachers, students and parents as they get ready to teach and learn from home.

“PVUSD’s contingency plan for reopening schools, created in collaboration with classified and certificated staff and administration, is intentionally and thoughtfully designed to provide flexibility and therefore allows us to fully shift and open with a TK-12 Distance Learning model in this moment,” Rodriguez stated in a press release. 

The district can shift to a hybrid model—in which students attend in-person classes for some days—if health conditions permit, Rodriguez said. 

“Distance Learning is the right thing to do to ensure the continued safety of our students, staff and community,” she said.

The announcement, which came late Tuesday afternoon, was the latest shift in a saga that began June 17, when the district said it was looking to bring younger students back to the classroom for two days per week, while grades 4-12 attended only online classes.

After Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel said she would not support a model that included all-distance learning for any students, the Board of Trustees on July 8 was set to vote on a hybrid model that allowed two days of in-person learning per week.

But the trustees balked at that plan, saying they were concerned about the increased risk from the virus.

PVUSD spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez said the district, and others throughout the state, used guidance recently released by the California departments of Public Health and Education, both of which say that school districts can make their own decisions on how to reopen in the fall.

The Board of Trustees will consider the plan for final approval on July 29. 

In many ways, the infrastructural framework is in place for online classes to begin.

Teachers are used to delivering instruction remotely, after having done so during the latter half of the 2019-20 school year after the novel coronavirus began its worldwide spread. 

Rodriguez said that all students in PVUSD from grades 2-12 have received Chromebook computers, and that many have been issued wireless hotspots for internet connections.

Moreover, Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 29 signed Senate Bill 98, which provides funding to schools for distance learning activities.

Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers President Nelly Vaquera-Boggs said she supports the decision.

“Securing the safety of our staff and students is critical and has always been our top priority,” she said. “Given the current health conditions, distance learning is the right option. We know that this will be a challenge for everyone going forward but teachers always rise to the occasion. I have no doubt our teachers will exceed all the added requirements from the State.” 

PVUSD Teacher Abel Mejia said he agrees with the district’s plan for a slow return to classes.

“School should be taught remotely this fall so that we can really come back together in the coming year,” he said in a Facebook post. “If we break things this fall—a forced reopening, done in pieces, some kids today, some tomorrow—and of course the sickness follows and finds us in classrooms and bad things happen, we may not be able to make schools work again for a very long time. We need to wait and get it right.”

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